About Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.
Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.
In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
Latest Posts by Jim Bamboulis
Mexico, unfairly in my opinion, gets a repetitively bad rap. Sure, it has its problems but beneath the constant barrage of media reports, is a beautiful country full of life, passion and spirit. Not to mention food that will make you full…of life, passion and spirit.
During one trip to Mexico, I can remember eating so much that every time our car went over a rough patch of road, my belly would rattle and roll.
At that point, I knew that I had to kick my fitness into high gear but I also knew that the food ride was a good one.
Northern Mexico is known for its love of meat.
If you don’t eat meat in northern Mexico, you’re out of luck eating much at all. Sure there are salads but nobody seems to take them, or their health benefits seriously.
Meanwhile, in the south, meat still plays an important role but the cuisine in general isn’t so heavy.
But right in the middle, lies the sweet spot.
In a place like Tepoztlan, located about an hour south of Mexico City and is a.k.a Pueblo Magico, all sorts of great food is consumed and savoured. For me, it’s all about eating up real quesadillas at the local market. Tortillas hand-made and fresh, with Oaxaca cheese at the ready and chorizo on the grill at any given second.
If you’re not hungry yet, you may start to feel your stomach calling for you after watching this video. Enjoy!
Every time there’s a chance to travel to Montreal, I jump on it. Love this city! Locals are passionate, seem to enjoy life a bit more and take pride in their out-of-this-world food scene. After all, what’s not to love. Unique, delicious, French. Going on a 24 hour food bender in this town is essential.
Start with breakfast. I got a recommendation to hit a cafe/bakery about 3 km northeast of downtown, near Mount Royal Park and the eastern edge of historic McGill University. Stomach growling, I ordered one of the house specialties. Over-easy egg resting nicely on a croissant. Genius. Efficient. Combines the beauty of both worlds. And it avoids a mess.
Food being one of my weaknesses, it didn’t take long for me to have my next meal. 45 minutes later, I had lunch.
For years, when in Montreal, I’d hit up Schwartz’s deli on St. Laurent. An institution in Montreal and famous the world over, this place is always jammed, with a lineup out the door sprinkled with a hectic eating atmosphere. This time around, I thought to change it up.
I went across the street. The Main. More serene, same price, same portion, equally awesome.
Ordered 2 dishes. Montreal smoked meat and of course, poutine.
These are the meals that you feel euphoric about while you’re sitting there stuffing your face, then painfully regret eating after you’ve had some time to realize the amount of fat you’ve just ingested.
Montreal Smoked Meat
Poutine consists of French fries, topped with gravy and cheese curds. If those curds don’t squeak when you bite down on them, then it’s not really poutine.
These days, restaurants around Canada have their own version of this artery-clogging beauty, including pulled pork poutine, Mediterranean inspired poutine, even ancho braised beef short-rib poutine….and the list goes on and on.
To me, poutine is best in its classic form. With me?
But sometimes, I like to try a variation.
I hit up another recommended restaurant in NE Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon (Pig’s Foot). Packed for a reason, the food here is considered to be legendary. Their speciality (among other things which we’ll get to in a second), is Foie Gras Poutine.
Delicious and disgusting at the same, time, this dish is a whopping $25! Definitely not on the cheap but definitely worth the wait and worth the experience. If you can, I recommend sitting at the bar at Cochon. Yes, the space is tight but you get a front row seat and see for yourself how the kitchen here operates (well oiled machine) and how exactly they prep and plate.
Whether you’re looking for fine dining or quick and classic, Montreal has what you’re looking for. Where else in Canada can you order a pig’s head, served on a platter, eaten in full (eyeballs and all, I assume) and left with a skeletal head of said pig on said platter all in one sitting?
Same place. Au Pied de Cochon. That’s where.
Order a Pig’s Head for 2. Market Price. Here’s what the end result looks like.
If that sounds and looks appetizing to you, you’ve got balls of steel.
Either way, if you’re a traveler who believes that food is part of the travel experience, you’ll take the gamble and love it!
Every year, right before Christmas the flagship Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto puts together an incredible display of Christmas celebration and cheer. 5 windows along very busy Queen Street West (just west of Yonge Street) are decorated with elaborate, detailed and festive Christmas scenes that conjure all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings to all those who walk by them.
You can’t help but stop, take a pic or two and admire how the craftsmanship is done!
Letters and lists
They’re only around for a limited time and are definitely worth the visit!
On days like this, people generally stay inside, read a book, watch a movie, maybe get drunk or write a blog post. Sometimes in that order, sometimes not. Many though decide to venture out.
Some drive. Here’s what Toronto roads look like when it snows.
Sure, turn around on a hill
It may not look bad but the first one is always the toughest
Sure, if you must drive you have little choice but to battle the traffic. Yes, tempers flare and yes Toronto does have hills. They aren’t San Francisco type hills but this city has inclines that, on days like this, make it feel like you’re tobogganing in a car with plenty of backsliding, and back bumper to front bumper accidents.
Let me just go ahead and cause a potential shit storm
Causing a shit storm. Can you hear the honking horns?
There are particular parts of the city that cause greater chaos than others. This hill in mid-town Toronto is notorious for slipping, sliding and all sorts of chaotic activity. In the past, there have been people who have gotten the balls to do this…and make it successfully!
In fact, when the snow is really bad, as it is today, the TV cameras show up. Filming the chaos and gathering sound bites for everyone to see, hear and judge those who decided to drive on a day like this.
We’re the News.
Now, back to that book, bag of chips, movie and drink. Potentially in that order.
A while ago, I wrote about the Great Gum Wall of Seattle. Yummy. And in my quest to see unusual attractions, I was told to drive a bit north of the downtown Seattle core…to find the Emerald City’s Fremont Troll.
You wonder? It is an 18 foot high sculpture built by 4 Artists nearly 25 years ago. Their goal was to create something that would help clean up this area of the city, through art. It worked.
The Fremont Troll is a major attraction. And as you’ll see, young and old still like to climb on it, pose in front of it and just stare at it.
If the frappe was around thousands of years ago, I guarantee it that Socrates and Plato would have taken a break from their philosophizing, taken a walk to the village square, pulled up a couple of chairs and ordered a few. Maybe even one to go.
In the 50′s, two Greeks working for Nestle, Yiannis Dritsas and Dimitris Vakondios, invented what has long been considered by many to be the National Drink of Greece. And if you’re familiar at all with Greek culture, coffee always plays a central role in any Greek-inspired symposium, no matter what time of day or night.
With the likes of Starbucks and McDonald’s featuring it on their respective menus, the frappe is being enjoyed worldwide. Although it’s not the same as the Greek-style original, it’s a good effort. But now, you don’t have to depend on someone making it for you. With a few easy steps, you can make an authentic Greek-style frappe in your own home.
There are two types of Greek coffee. One is hot, often quite strong and made in a delicate and intricate manner using a briki. The frappe meanwhile is prepared with a shaker, served cold, with three degrees of sweetness, determined by the amount of sugar and coffee used. Follow this recipe:
- Look at the size of your pinky finger. Note the length of it. Now take a cocktail mixer or hand shaker and fill it with cold water using that exact length. (You don’t want too much water in the shaker at the start)
- Take desired amount of coffee and sugar and mix with water.
- Shake the mixer or shaker for about 45 seconds until you see a foamy top.
- Empty contents into a desired glass (usually, standard drinking glass).
- Add more water (about 1/3 of a cup).
- Add about 1/3 cup of Milk.
- Add ice cubes; they keep the beverage around them cold (obviously) but when mixed with the warmer water on the bottom of the glass, produce a consistent coolness.
- Use a drinking straw to mix the foam with the ice cubes and coffee. To many, the sound of the straw moving around and mixing all of the ingredients is what truly creates an authentic frappe drinking experience. And again, using the straw maintains the consistent texture and flavour of the drink.
As far as varying degrees of sweetness is concerned, take a look below and determine which one suits you best:
- Sweet (2 tsp coffee and 4 tsp sugar and often mixed with milk)
- Medium (equivalent to a double-double)
- Straight (no sugar)
Frankly, I love sitting on a patio and people watching while drinking a frappe on a hot day. But of course, everyone enjoys it their own way.
Ask yourself, why do Greeks love the frappe so much? Why is so much time and money devoted to it on a daily basis? Life is meant to be appreciated, absorbed and analyzed using the art of passionate conversation. A frappe forces one to slow down once in a while and smell the coffee, sorta-speak. But most of all, it unites people, inspires those passionate talks.
In every sense, it’s a way of life!
Photo credit: greece. greekreporter. com
When I was a kid my Mom would save up her very hard earned money and take me to Greece to …
And if you’ve just watched Taxi Driver with Robert Deniro, you may be inspired to add ‘step on it’ in a grungy New York accent. Albeit tempting and funny, it’s up to you. Cabbies already have enough wise guys in their cars. But who knows, you may get a chuckle and an inflated final tab. Lucky you.
Back to the point.
When you get into a taxi, do you find yourself unconsciously, automatically opening the back door, sitting and delegating from the back seat? Sure, we all have. Can’t help it, I guess. But have you ever stopped to think about it?
I hadn’t. Until recently. Nobody ever explained cab etiquette to me. Does such a thing even exist? I guess it has always been understood that the first rule of cabbing it is to always sit in the back. Nobody ever asked why and it was never a conversation piece. In my experience being in Toronto, almost everyone unconsciously hops in the back. Nothing wrong with it, just funny.
Why do we do it? After all, we don’t sit in the back when our spouse or sibling drives us somewhere.
Of course, when we travel in larger groups, someone ends up sitting in the front. I’ve often been that guy and almost always strike up a conversation with the driver. Besides small talk, I ask how many people on average sit next to him on a fare. The answer that comes back is ‘not too many’.
Is it a comfort issue? Is it a class issue?
It might be both but I think it’s neither. It’s simply habit. Generally speaking, we don’t think much about habits like this. Too many other things to think about.
I also think cabbies prefer having passengers sit in the back. It’s safer and provides a space buffer between people whose relationship lasts mere minutes, from pick up to drop off. Nothing wrong with that, either.
How do you cab it? Are you an habitual back seat passenger or prefer to ride shotgun?